An x-ray machine and a doctor with text "Can Mammograms Detect Heart Disease"

Mammography helps women by detecting early signs of breast cancer, but this helpful technology may also offer an added bonus. A mammogram not only detects breast cancer, but research suggests it can also detect breast arterial calcification (BAC), which is a plaque buildup in the breast’s arteries.

Published in JACC: Cardiovascular Imaging, a study looked at the link between calcification in the breast and the heart’s arteries. The study examined nearly 300 women free of heart disease. All the women underwent both a mammogram and a computed tomography (CT) scan of the chest. The mammograms showed calcifications in the arteries within the breast in about 40% of the women. The researchers found a correlation between the breast artery calcifications (BAC) and the amount of calcium buildup in the coronary arteries.  Coronary artery calcification or CAC is an early indicator of heart disease. Overall, researchers found that 11% of the women had calcium build-up and 15% had plaque build-up in the heart’s main arteries – a known warning sign for heart disease.

Researchers suggest the findings are promising, as these tests are already being performed on women and require no additional radiation.  Mammograms could become a tool for detecting early heart disease in women who would otherwise be missed. It is important to remember if breast arterial calcification has been identified, it doesn’t mean heart disease is present. Additional testing may be needed. 

Source:

Mammograms: Another Way to Screen for Heart Disease? (2016, March 25). Retrieved from https://www.acc.org/about-acc/press-releases/2016/03/25/09/26/mammograms-another-way-to-screen-for-heart-disease

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